Discovering Askeatons Wildlife.
Located along the banks of the River Deel and only 3km from the Shannon estuary Askeaton is one of Limericks most historic towns. The Desmond Castle situated on a natural rocky outcrop in the middle of the town was built in 1199 and its ruins still dominate the landscape. Nearby is the impressive Franciscan Friary
and this word of god is balanced by the remains of the Hellfire Club.
These were popular in the 18th century and a place where rich gentlemen would come to drink, play cards and meet “ladies”.
But hidden among the stones Askeatons wildlife is equally as interesting and recently I paid a visit to see what wildlife I could discover. I parked under the shade of the tall Beech trees that border Super Value Car Park. A field at the back of the bottle banks immediately draws my attention. It is bordered by a thick Blackthorn hedgerow that has long arching brambles growing at its base. This is a great natural stock proof fence as it would want to be a brave animal that would force his way through. I can hear a Robin singing and Rooks and Jackdaws are feeding in the adjacent field. Scattered among the grass there a few wildflowers. Red clover, Ragwort, Sow thistle, Common dock and black medic are all in flower.
I head into town and find a tall Holly tree surrounded by a sea of tarmac and concrete. Its berries will be eaten by birds and the thorns will provide birds with a safe roosting spot. Across the road on the roof on a house a Jackdaw is calling. All the streets flow towards the river and I pause in the square to read the interesting History of the area located on Information panels. I push on and a sign for homemade ice-cream briefly catches my attention but not in this inclement weather. I reach the bridge over the Deel and spot Mallards resting under the shade of the castle. Despite its age it is still very impressive but now only echoes to the calls of the local birds.
A new state of the art leisure centre was built in 2008 and the public entrance follows the river bank. I stand underneath a tree and watch the river for a few minutes. Black headed gulls are noisily feeding while Greylag geese are grazing while the tide is out. This daily tidal rhythm exposes a rich feeding ground for birds. Wet Daddy longlegs are resting on the railing and I find the Oak Apple Gall growing on an Oak tree.
I pass beneath a grove of Beech trees and a flash of blue upstream catches my attention. I am just in time to see kingfisher disappearing up the river and this is wildlife highlight of the trip. A woodpigeon flashes by but I am afraid he doesn’t have the same appeal as the beautiful Kingfisher. Large mud flats are exposed and I can see several birds feeding.
A small side gate invites me out onto a quite road. The main road looms overhead but there is a beautiful roadside garden. Roses, Buddleia and Mallows are all in flower and this is someone who takes pride in their work. I follow the road and pass a fallen giant. A tall elderberry tree has been knocked by the wind and is slowly decaying in a field. Brambles are full of blackberries and at the back of the tennis court the natural stone is protruding from the landscape. I scramble up for a look and find Eyebright, Yarrow and wild carrot. A house is been renovated and they are using the traditional thatch. If the owners are of a generous nature they will allow House sparrows to build their nests in the thatch.
I retrace my steps back to the leisure centre garden. A mature woodland edge borders the garden. Ash, Beech, Mountain ash with berries and Horsechestnut create a valuable home for wildlife. A male Blackbird is foraging in the leaf litter and flies away as I approach. I shelter under an overgrown trellis covered in ivy but it is home to spiders and there are no sign of any nesting birds.
I head back towards the car and stop for a visit to St Marys church. The long branches of a Sycamore tree stretch out over the wall bordering the college. A fine seat has been built around this old tree for students to discuss more important things than their studies.
I head into the ruins beside the church. The walls are covered in Spleenwort, Sedums and Navelworth. The doorways are low and narrow but provide good shelter. A large stone tablet depicting the Ten Commandments is leaning against the wall. Songs of worship have been replaced by the calls of the Jackdaws and while there is no holy water there is an abundance of natural rain and I blessed from head to toe.
From ancient history to stunning wildlife Askeaton has plenty to offer the traveller on the Wild Atlantic way.
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